ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Water is becoming a more and more precious resource in recent times, particularly in Kansas and Monday, Gov. Laura Kelly took some action to help.
Monday, Gov. Kelly sent a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland requesting that the Lower Colorado River Basin Conservation and Efficiency Program (the LC Program) be expanded to Kansas.
“The program, part of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, provides funding for water management and conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin and other basins experiencing similar levels of long-term drought,” Gov. Kelly noted in a State of Kansas release. “Much of Kansas has experienced some of the worst drought conditions in the country over the past year, impacting the state’s agricultural industry and accelerating the need to find economically viable solutions that improve access to water long-term. Expanding the LC Program is a vital part of our efforts to mitigate economic impacts to communities in this region, including our critical agriculture industry. A timely expansion of this program could help Kansas family farms and ranches, small towns, and wildlife avoid the worst of the severe and potentially irreversible short and long-term repercussions that are predicted.”
The High Plains Aquifer (HPA), interconnected with the Ogallala, lies beneath most western Kansas communities. The High Plains Aquifer is also the primary source of water for western Kansas and economically the most important groundwater resource in Kansas.
“Dry years lead to increased pumping demands, primarily for irrigation, which typically cause more significant water level declines,” Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam noted in the State of Kansas release. “Such declines can impact vulnerable areas like the Rattlesnake Creek sub-basin, a part of the HPA, which provides water to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Water is critical for farmers and ranchers across Kansas, where agriculture is an essential part of the local economy. Extending the LC Program beyond the Colorado Basin would provide funding that could be instrumental in mitigating the effects of drought and helping pivot the state to a more sustainable future.”
“KCGA is pleased and thankful for Gov. Kelly recognizing the importance of requesting expansion of this federal funding for water conservation projects in Kansas,” Kent Moore, Kansas Corn Growers Association (KCGA) Treasurer, noted in the State of Kansas release. “These funds will provide key components in resolving the Quivira Impairment. We look forward to continuing to work with the Kelly administration in facilitating and implementing needed water conservation projects that benefit Kansas farmers, our environment, and our state’s economy.”
Recently, the Kelly Administration had committed an additional $1M to conservation efforts in response to projections of lower wheat production.
“This additional funding comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that the wheat harvest will be 122 million bushels short of Kansas’ 330-million-bushel average, Gov. Kelly noted in a release from the State of Kansas earlier this week. “The drought we have experienced has absolutely starved our wheat harvest at a time when Kansas farmers – and the world – cannot afford it. My administration will continue to make the necessary investments to protect the water resources that fuel our agriculture industry – the bedrock of our state’s economy. Funding is provided by the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Conservation (KDA–DOC) through an appropriation from the State Water Plan Fund. The program is administered by Conservation Districts across the state.”
“The state continues to seek funding for conservation efforts that can maximize water resources and help make agricultural practices for farmers and ranchers more efficient and sustainable,” Beam noted in a State of Kansas release earlier this week. “Landowners and producers with natural resource concerns on their property are encouraged to visit their local Conservation District office to discuss the possibility of receiving state financial assistance. The additional funding is available to landowners and producers interested in eligible water resource practices such as irrigation water management, nutrient management, planting cover crops, livestock water supplies, cross fencing, and abandoned well plugging.”